Selecting the right MacBook

PersonalDev Setup
  |  

Selecting the right MacBook

As the decision to buy a MacBook has settled the next step was to select what MacBook to buy.
Normally I like to have a notebook in the 13” range as it is portable and when used at home I always connect an external monitor to it.
My previous device was a Microsoft Surface Pro 6 so I was quite used to such a screen size and didn’t need to change it.

The keyboard

There is one problem with the MacBooks that was very prominent in the media: The butterfly keyboard seemed not to be the best decision Apple made. So it was clear to me: I don’t want to get a MacBook with a butterfly keyboard.
This ruled out all 13” Models before 2020 and all 15” models. So the available options were: 13” 2020 or 16” 2019.
The 2019 MacBook is roughly half a year old so it can be bought at some discount. The situation for a i7-10, 16GB RAM and 512GB storage device was that the 16” costs 100€ more than the 13”. I also noticed that the reviewers mentioned that the 16” has a redesigned cooling system that works much better than the old one and that the 13” sadly doesn’t have this improvement. Another thing that I’ve seen in the news is that the 13” has some USB 2.0 problems.
So I decided to go with the bigger device because it promised more power. Having a dedicated GPU can’t hurt, right?

First impressions

The piece of art came and I couldn’t wait to test it. I set everything up and plugged in the external monitor. Fans spin up. What was this? “Maybe some background task from the setup is still working?”
No, as it turned out: Plugging in an external monitor has to activate the dedicated GPU wich immediately pulls 20W and needs the fans to run. Only slow but still.
I decided that I can live with that knowing I have the raw power under my control.

The new Monitor

I decided to upgrade my monitor. I had a WQHD monitor from Asus. I found a rather cheap UWQHD monitor from LC-Power and pulled the trigger on that monster.
The monitor came and I plugged it into the MacBook. Works, looks good, curved monitors are great!
End of the story - no
Some days later I recognized that moving windows around felt strange. The reason was that the mouse halted every 3-5 seconds for a very brief moment.

I tried everything to get rid of that:

  • tested another mouse
  • plugged the monitor directly to the MacBook without using my Docking Station
  • plugged the muse directly to the MacBook without using the DockingStation
  • used a Bluetooth mouse
  • reduced the frequency (default for this monitor is 100Hz)

Nothing helped.

Then I searched the internet and found other people having the same problem. It seems to be a bug in the AMD kernel extension. Not sure if the special resolution of that monitor was the culprit or something different.

This is something that I can’t live with. Even on a 500€ Windows Notebook I would not accept this. Of course - this bug might be fixed one day. But I would have to see that stuttering mouse the whole time. And now that I know the problem I recognize every stutter.

MacBook exchange

Gladly still inside my return window I decided to reset the 16” and send it back to Amazon. In the meantime Apple fixed the USB 2.0 issue on the 13” so I decided to go with the smaller model.

This puppy has now arrived and - of course - I immediately checked the performance on the external monitor. The result? No problems at all. No fan spins up no mouse stuttering just super smooth as expected.

Conclusion

Not sure? How can this happen? A customer that buys a 2300€ notebook should be able to expect more than that. If this model was new then OK - can happen, fix is probably in the works.
But this thing is half a year old. We are at 10.15.6 now!
Ok - I have to admit that I don’t know for how long this problem exists. Maybe it has been introduced in one of the patches.
So if you don’t really need an GPU then the 13” might be a better option. Apple care is also cheaper for the smaller one :)